News and  Research

Need help convincing others to get involved? Want to know why we do what we do? Here's some recent news and studies in support...

Ofsted 2019


Open Trail are exploring ways to help local schools meet the new requirements.


The New Common Inspection Framework covers four key areas. Two of which are:

  • Personal development, behaviour and welfare

  • Outcomes for children and learners


From 2019 schools can now be recognised for how the curriculum provides opportunities for personal development independently of the way schools deal with behaviour and pupil attitudes to learning, unlike in previous years. We help schools provide evidence for these new areas of the Framework by using Forest School and Cycling to provide personal development opportunities and work on the outcomes for children as individuals.


      Ofsted and mental health/well being

Ofsted believes that "schools have a central role to play in enabling their pupils to be resilient and to support good mental health and wellbeing. It is important that schools promote good mental wellbeing for all pupils".

"Schools have a role to equipping pupils to be resilient so that they can manage the normal stress of life effectively".


Inspectors will evaluate the extent to which schools support pupils to develop their character – including their resilience, confidence and independence – and help them know how to keep physically and mentally healthy.


      Ofsted and Child Obesity

Ofsted's official October 2018 report on 'Obesity, healthy eating and physical activity in primary school' concluded that schools have an important role to play in encouraging healthy lifestyles and exercise as part of a rich, broad curriculum but they exist to deliver education not to make children lose weight.

The report says that schools should focus on improving the things they are best placed to do, such as:

  • providing ample opportunity for children to take physical exercise during the school day – with lots of opportunities to ‘get out of breath’

  • teaching particular skills like how to cook or how to dance, or even how to ride a bike

Child Mental Wellbeing


In 2017/18 the highest number of calls to Childline (25%) were about low self-esteem, lack of confidence, anxiety, feeling sad, low mood, loneliness and mental health issues (Number of calls relating to this were up 5% from 2016/17).


In 2015 England ranked 14th of 15 countries on children’s satisfaction with life (positivity about the future, happiness over the last two weeks and satisfaction with life as a whole).  (Children’s World project, York University).


The Nuture Portrait 2016/17 found 1/3 primary school aged children are experiencing some form of social emotional or behavioural difficulties, and too few of these receive any kind of support.


Studies have shown that as little at 10 minutes of ‘brisk’ exercise could help you to improve your general mood and mental alertness.

Studies have shown that regular physical exercise such as cycling can increas self-esteem and help to lift stress and feelings of anxiety - potentially improving quality of life and risk of developing mental health problems in the future. Just 10 minutes of cycling could help you to improve your general mood and mental alertness.


The Persil ‘Dirt is Good’ campaign found that children in the UK spend less time outside than the UN regulation for prisoners, this is just 1 hour a day.


Open University’s OPENspace Research Centre, provide considerable evidence suggesting that time spent outdoors, in nature, increases life expectancy, improves wellbeing, reduces symptoms of depression and increases a child’s ability to function in school. Teachers report improved concentration, better ability to focus and learn, increased productivity, better behaviour, and the fostering of more positive relationships between adults and children and amongst peer groups, when children are more active and spend more time outside during the day.

Child Obesity


Child obesity is a rapidly growing problem in Worcestershire and the West Midlands. Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to suffer from poor self-esteem, bullying and lack of confidence.


Figures released by Public Health England (PHE) show:







  • There is a sizable gap between the richest and poorest in Worcestershire in 2016/17 with 39.3% of Year 6 children overweight or obese in the most deprived areas, compared to 29.8% in the least deprived. The equivalent figures for Reception Year are 26.5% (most deprived) and 19.3% (least deprived).


40-60% of obese school age children become obese adults, which can lead to a range of preventable illnesses including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.


The UK comes 6th in a list of 35 countries’ obesity rates, both for adults and children aged 3-17. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) childhood obesity to be one of the ‘most serious public health challenges of the 21st century and one of the biggest health challenges facing England. It is primarily caused by a decline in physical activity, not an increase in sugar, fat or calorie consumption. Physical inactivity/sedentary behaviour is estimated to cost the UK as much as £1.2 billion a year. Countries with the highest levels of cycling and walking have the lowest obesity rates.


Many obese children are reported to have to endure social and psychological problems like negative stereotypes, peer rejection, teasing and discrimination. This can be linked to developing a negative self-image, low self-esteem and even depression.

 The Need to Ride


Being able to ride a bike is recognised as being an important part of child development in several school surveys yet 43% of children cannot ride a bike by the age of 7, and no provision is made to deal with this (Mori, 2011). This leads to children feeling inferior to others, reduces their self-esteem, limits their independence, opportunities to exercise and to get outside. Additionally, the number of children meeting the recommended amount of physical activity for healthy development and weight drops by 40% as they move through primary school.


The ‘Play on Pedals’ project in Glasgow, a learn to ride project that worked with over 7000 children found that children showed:


  • An increase in physical health such as balance and strength

  • Improved mental health and wellbeing including noted increases in confidence, self-esteem and sense of achievement.

  • Increased focus, concentration, listening and perseverance, as well as resilience and working together as a group.

  • Improved relationships between peers as well as between staff and children.

  • Increased understanding of healthy lifestyle choices.

To name just a few benefits!


They found that cycling gives children an enormous leap forwards in their confidence and independence. They are able to manipulate a vehicle by themselves, and without any support from a grown-up.


At Open Trail we find that once this is mastered several other accomplishments follow such as riding one-handed, standing up, lifting the front wheel, riding downhill really fast, riding on grass. The challenges, accomplishments and feeling of confidence and boost in self-esteem just keep unfolding. It will not always be smooth, they will crash, they will cry but that’s where emotional resilience gets built.


If children cannot ride a bike by the age of 14 they are more than likely never going to learn. They will write it off as something they just cannot do.

Pupils across the country were asked which sports and physical activities they would like to do more of in school. Of all sports cycling was in the top 5 with an overwhelming 20% of pupils wanted to do more cycling.

Research into creativity, play and learning outdoors

There is a current whirlwind of professors and researchers leading the way in new approaches to children’s education, especially regarding creativity, play and learning outdoors. Here’s just a few that we have found particularly interesting:


Sir Ken Robinson:  International author and advisor for education and children’s creativity:

Creative Schools, Transforming Education: 

Do schools kill creativity?


Dr Nilda Cosco: Director of Programs, The Natural Learning Initiative

What nature teaches children

Professor Welby Ings: international consultant surrounding issues of learning and creativity

The Decline of Play

Rebecca Benna: Community Promoter

Lessons Learned From Playing Outdoors

Open Trail (registered charity: 1172191)

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